Colombia: Renewed protest rallies turn violent

South America

22 January 2020, 11:09

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Anti-government protests returned to the streets of Colombia on Tuesday as riot police clashed with demonstrators that saw at least four people injured, three of which were police officers.

Protests against President Ivan Duque’s government first broke out in November last year in what began as a general strike but soon evolved into discontent over Duque’s economic reforms, a lack of jobs, corruption and drug-related violence.

Bogota city hall reported up to 20 demonstrations across the capital on Tuesday, most of which were described as peaceful, though at two, riot police clashed with “violent hooded men.”

The mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, who took office on January 1, has set up a protocol to try to prevent clashes during demonstrations. Four people have died and roughly 500 have been injured since they began on November 21.

Protests also took place Tuesday in cities including Cali, Medellin and Barranquilla.

Give and take

Demonstrators want Duque to abolish the ESMAD riot police, an organization heavily criticized for its aggressive response to the protests.

Duque, who has been in power since August 2018, has given in to some of the demands on tax reform, confirming the refund of Value Added Tax to the poorest 20% of the population and benefits for companies that employ younger staff.

Protests against Duque in Colombia (AFP/R. Arboleda)
Protesters set alight a barricade during a demonstration against the government in Bogota on January 21

The president defended, though, what he described as “a national conversation” with various sectors in order to solve the deadlock.

“We want to listen to all sectors so that we can move on to making proposals, where we can solve many of the country’s needs that have emerged from years ago,” the 43-year-old president said.

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